Friday, September 28, 2012

"Oslo, August 31": a young man in despair, surrounded by the prosperity of others in modern Scandanvia

Near the end of “Oslo, August 31” (directed by Joachim Trier), the protagonist Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), having returned home, sits down at a grand piano and starts to play what sounds like a Bach Partita (not identified in the credits).  He plays it reasonably well, with a few mistakes, but then, a bit frustrated, stops in the middle.

He goes to the bedroom to initiated his own tragic end.  I had to play spoiler.  But I felt, what a waste.
The film documents a full day in the life of a recovering drug addict, who takes a day of liberty from his treatment center (or maybe he is getting out), and visits his old “friends”  in town (Oslo, Norway) and even applies for a job (unsuccessfully, as the employer needs to explain the gap in his resume). 

Anders, whose hairless body in early scenes seems to emphasize a surprisingly clean-cut, preppie and crew-cut look, has apparently been raised in intellectual privilege (his parents valued brains more than sport, he says) but doesn’t seem to value anything, in himself or in other people.  The film has some existential conversations that seem to run around in circles.  He admits that he can’t face “starting over”.

I thought of a number of Dr. Phil shows where Dr. Phil sends a client to a drug and alcohol rehab program in Texas. 

I visited Oslo myself at the end of July, 1972, visiting friends “from church”.  There was actually a heat wave.  I took a train to Bergen, flew to Trondheim, then took a train across the Arctic Circle to Narvik, and then another train to Kiruna and back down to Stockholm. 

I reviewed a screener from Strand.  The film played at the West End Cinema in Washington DC a few weeks ago but I missed it there. 

Strand’s official site (the DVD is now in stock) is here

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Oslo Royal Palace. 

The scenery of the city Oslo emphasizes its neatness, perfection, and prosperity, in comparison to the emptiness of the central character. 

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